Norway’s tradition of opera is by modern standards fairly recent. The world-famous soprano Kirsten Flagstad put the country on the map after her debut at the Met in 1935, and she became the country’s first Opera Director in 1957. The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet Company ensued, and garnered enough attention and resources to build a home for their performances. In 1999 the Norwegian legislature confirmed construction of the theater, and 350 entires were submitted. The Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta was declared the winner, and the rest is history. Construction took four years and over 700 million dollars, and the current Opera House was opened to the public in 2008.
I passed by here on a whim, to confirm the pier that my cruise to Oscarsburg was going to depart from later in the week. The exterior of the building was so striking I spontaneously decided to visit and walked around the roof for maybe thirty minutes. This was a bit of a surreal experience, as you can literally go down to the water’s edge and fifteen minutes later be on the apex of the roof with views across the harbor. As there were no performances, I decided to take a fifty minute walking tour later that week. This was well done, starting in the foyer and continuing to the medium and large performance halls, as well as the back stage lifts and costume shop. Our docent was well versed in the history of the venue as well as the current operations.
In summary, despite the fact I didn’t get to see a performance, this was a worthwhile visit. First, the building is simply magnificent to look at. While the exterior is striking, the interior is more subtle but no less impressive. I’m not an “architectural expert” by any means but certainly on a visceral level this was a worthwhile stop. Second, the behind-the-scenes perspective of the amount of time, effort, people, and money that it takes to run a venue and opera/ballet performance was fascinating. My only small quibble would be that the tour only focussed on the interior of the building; an extra (final?) stop outside to explain the roof and maybe the “She Lies” sculpture would have made a good presentation perfect.
Recommended. Even those without an interest in the performing arts will enjoy a rooftop walk and the accompanying views. Others will want to take a tour and, hopefully on my next visit, a performance.